First Day of School

The other day I came upon one of the most charming news clip ever:  someone from MPR had interviewed Kindergarten Alumni (aka, First Graders) about how to survive the first day of kindergarten. It is part of a story by Elizabeth Shockman, “Five Tips for Kindergarteners’ FIRST Day of School”, with content actually aimed for their parents.

In a video by Derek Montgomery,

“We asked first graders from Duluth, MN, what advice they had for this year’s kindergarten class.”

These were the topics the kids were asked about:

Friends:  how do you make them?

Food!  What’s on the menu?

Is it scary?

What about rules?

I will personally never forget my first day of kindergarten – as a teacher, that is. Boy, was I nervous! It all went fine, apparently – once I was able to pry them out of their parents’ arms. I eventually managed to get all forty of them to sit down in their seats – at seven little tables with forty-odd little chairs. They would have received their personalized box of crayons, and tried them out on some paper handout I would’ve prepared. Some of them would have been able to write their names – wish I knew what percentage. (This was 1970, so most of them would not have been to a pre-school or day care.) I would have directed one table at a time to take the crayons, when finished, to their “cubbies” – their special place to keep their things. I would have tried herding them to the carpet area for a story, sung some songs, and had recess outside in our own private little courtyard. I wish I could remember more.

Do you have any memories about your first day of kindergarten? (You can use the questions above to jog your memory…)

How about memories of a first day of any new school year?

65 thoughts on “First Day of School”

  1. I wore a red and white gingham dress that had “Button Button, Whose Got The Button ” embroidered around the hem. I accidentally somehow got in the wrong kindergarten classroom, until Mrs. Helling, my teacher, found me.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Since I don’t specifically remember my first day of kindergarten, I take that as an indication that it wasn’t especially traumatic. Since my birthday is late in the year, I would have been four at the time. It was 1953. We were bussed to school, some of us a relatively long way, because in those days most families only had one car and that car was with the father at work. The school itself was house-like, with three classrooms—two on the main floor and one downstairs. Mine was on the main floor. The teacher was Miss Mellin, a nice lady who wore purple shoes. There were about 25 children in each class. I think, in advance of that first day, we visited the school with our parents and met the teacher.

    We each brought a lunch from home. Mine, in addition to a peanut butter and jelly or other sandwich, often had a hard-boiled egg which had been wrapped in waxed paper rolled around the egg and twisted on the ends. The sandwiches, too, were wrapped in waxed paper. Plastic wrap was only first introduced in 1953. Other children must also have brought hard-boiled eggs in their lunch because you could smell them on the bus on the way to school and especially in the cloakroom where the lunches were kept until lunchtime. I had a Hopalong Cassidy lunchbox.

    I remember playing “Duck Duck Gray Duck” (not Duck Duck Goose) in the yard outside the school. I remember there was a puzzle of the United States that Lee Carlson could do all by himself.

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  3. Rise and March off to School,

    This question tickles my unpleasant memories of school of which I have many. Sometimes I wonder how I learned anything at all. Garrison Keillor once said, “I went to school before teachers had sensitivity training.” To which I say, Yeah. Me too.

    On my first day of kindergarten I was one or two days past my birthday, so just barely 5 years old. It was all day kindergarten. There were 44 kids in a classroom in Malvern, Iowa (SW corner of Iowa near Omaha, NE). I don’t remember the first day, but I remember the entire traumatic year. My mother was teaching third grade in the same school which she and my dad decided they needed to have her do after he was diagnosed with MS. They knew his days working were numbered. My kindergarten teacher, Miss Jesse Frazier, had some kind of social agenda that is now incomprehensible, but in 1958 it must have made some kind of sense, at least to her. Now she just seems to be a sadist. It went as follows:

    *Dunce caps work for boys (not girls).
    *Every child should be spanked twice a year in front of the class.
    *Mrs. Stratton should not be working because married women should not work.
    *It is allowable for me to take out my anger at Mrs. Stratton for working on her daughter. She did that. A lot. Spanking. Shaming of everyone in the class but especially me. She sent me to the principal’s office which I liked because he was nice to me. I think he was scared of Miss Frazier, too. There were so many complaints about this teacher that he fired her at the end of the year. Thank God.

    This has been a really demanding week. The 3 day holiday combined with the start of school has my work schedule in shambles. Monday when we celebrated my mother’s 91st birthday she choked on some food and her esophagus spasmed, then things got really scary. She finally cleared the esophagus and things calmed down, but there was an uncertain half hour Monday in which I thought it might be her last birthday. My brother-in-law, the nurse, was ready to take her to the closest ER.

    I did not get to my rant story about gender bias yesterday. Now I must get ready for work, but I will try to get it posted today.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jacque, with all due respect, you don’t have to dwell on the rant. Don’t rehash it just for our sake. 🙂
      But at the same time, don’t you hate it when work gets in the way of a good rant?? There are times I’ve got students around and I’m SO MAD about whatever but I must stay and be nice. Man is that frustrating!
      Except former student Brian. He knew I was mad and he’d just poke me then because he liked it when smoke came out of my ears. He’d just laugh. Which of course only made me madder and him laugh more.
      Brian is still a good friend of mine.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Sorry about the incident at your mother’s birthday celebration. Glad she recovered though I’m sure there were some very anxious moments.

      About your school experience, what can I say? Your kindergarten experience sounds horrible. I am glad, though, that you had a nice principal so that being sent there wasn’t traumatic to you. Glad, too, that your second grade teacher after your move was nice, but by then the damage had already been done to you (and who knows to how many of your fellow students).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice teacher–never anxious. Attendance in first grade for the whole class was much better than kindergarten. Kindergarten was full of anxious kids peeing their pants, throwing up, and crying.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Morning-

    I don’t remember anything about kindergarten. Miss McKay was the teacher I think.
    First grade was Miss Crandle; she seemed to be 70 years old then. I wonder how old she really was; I think she really did have gray hair but perhaps that was the kids fault ahead of me. I remember she wouldn’t let me out of the classroom in winter without buttoning my coat to the top, which I hated.

    Mom tells me my second grade teacher was hard to get along with. Miss Horner. I have blocked it all out of my memory but mom says it was tough to get me to go to school and she didn’t blame me.
    Third grade was Miss Kuntz and I had a crush on her. Dark hair, young, and wearing a mini skirt in our class photo.
    Mrs Lien in 4th grade and used to see her around town and she was nice.
    Mr Olson in 5th grade and that’s when I got glasses and he wore glasses and helped me deal with the trauma and teasing of being a ‘four eyes’.
    Sixth grade was Miss Marsolek, who got married and became Mrs Michulski. I had a crush on her too. She was tall and reminded me of Mary Tyler Moore.

    When I started taking college classes Kelly would take my picture on the first day of school. I still get nervous / anxious. And nights doing homework.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. When I started school, our district didn’t have kindergarten. One of my aunts taught a sort of pre-school in a church about 10 miles from home. I attended it for what seemed like an eternity – more like a couple of weeks. During that time I lived with that aunt and uncle – thank goodness one of my cousins took me under his wing and was very nice to me.
    Because I have a late birthday, I was only 5 when entering 1st grade. Mom said I wanted to start but I think she just wanted me out of the house. My very best friend was 10 months younger than me and couldn’t start til the next year – which is when I really should have started.
    First grade was Mrs. Skogman – a very sweet woman who seemed ancient – she was probably in her 40s. I liked her a lot.
    Second grade was Mrs. Carlson – I only remember her looking very crabby all the time.
    Third grade was Mrs. Bohm – we teasingly called her Mrs. Bone – another rather strict teacher.
    Fourth grade was a nightmare. We had Mrs. Noyd, who had come from a country school. She was excellent at boxing ears (boys) and rapping knuckles. She also looked mad much of the time.
    For both fifth and sixth grade, I was in a mixed classroom (5/6) with Mr. Emrick – another former country school teacher. I remember him mostly as a nice “old” man (probably in his 50s) who wasn’t a particularly effective teacher. There were also separate 5th and 6th grades. I believe Mrs. Steinbring taught the single 5th grade – regretted not having her as everyone loved her. And Mrs. Bellin, who was also the principal, taught 6th grade. I remember her a being quite nice and again wished she had been my teacher.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Wow. From first grade on, we had five or six different teachers each day. Sure there were some teachers and subjects that were a lot more fun than others, but if there was a bad teacher in the mix, or a subject that your weren’t particularly interested in or good at, at least you only had to put up with it for about an hour. Also, all weekdays weren’t identical in terms of classes scheduled for your grade.

          Liked by 3 people

        1. In all of the schools I went to through high school, the students stayed put and the teachers traveled to their classroom. The exceptions, of course, were the classrooms specifically dedicated to one subject such as physics and chemistry labs, art room, home ec, gym, natural history, etc. All students in your class had the same subjects at the same time, no electives, with the exceptions. Boys and girls were separated only for gym and home ec/shop, and the much dreaded, one occasion, sex ed class late in high school. Things sure have changed.

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        2. In a way it makes more sense to have the teachers doing the traveling rather than trying to herd the students. But I’m sure the teachers like having their own room/office – a “place for my stuff”. 🙂

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        3. if you put all the kids who excel in one class
          the ones who care ok in another and then ones who struggle in a third
          to teach all at same lesson leaves some bored some lost and some ok unless you slow itvtil everyone is clear in which case you slow to a snails pace and much is lost

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        1. And in junior high we were divided into sections. Each section had their classes together. I was in the “better” of two band sections. Some of the teachers didn’t like us – thought we were too privileged and snooty because we were the top band. We did happen to have most of the better students in our section.

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  7. My Grade 4 teacher was a horror who often ranted at us about the unkindness of everyone when her husband died (his death was years earlier).

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    1. grade 4 was the one who threw shoes and locked me in the closet

      kindergarten they sent a bus 1 hour before school because we lived so far away
      3 giant classes in the vfw 30? in each class
      i got transferred 1/2 through the year because my teacher had more students and while they said it was because i was well adjusted i suspects there may have been a bit of relief not to have my persistent little soul in her face all day too

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  8. My Grade 6 teacher, Miss Larson, read a book to our class called “Dibs in Search of Self ” which was written by Dr. Virginia Axline, one of the pioneers of play therapy, which details a year of therapy with an emotionally disturbed child. He is healed and turns out to be a genius. It was an odd choice to read to a group of Grade 6 students, but my exposure to that book was for me sort of like having the experience of a religious call. I decided then and there that I was going to be a psychologist who worked with children.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. The son of a good friend got married last year to the mother of their two children. His Grade 4 teacher (a good one, not a horror) was at the wedding and said “Well, he always had trouble with sequencing!”

    Liked by 5 people

  10. I apologize in advance for the length of this comment. Sorry folks.

    Børnehave, the Danish word for kindergarten, was not mandatory in Denmark when I was that age. Rather, it was essentially a glorified
    babysitting arrangement for which parents who worked paid to send their children, and it was an all day affair.

    In a small town like Stubbekøbing, there was one very small, formal such childcare facility. It was owned and run by a very nice lady with a couple of assistants, and that’s where my sister and I were sent. I remember it fondly, except for nap time, which I now understand was probably more for the adults’ sanity than the children’s needs.

    We were about twenty kids ranging in age from four to six. We’d have morning story time when we’d be read to, then we had outside playtime in a fenced in yard, weather permitting. Lunch was a time for consuming our home-made open faced sandwiches and a glass of milk, followed by the dreaded nap time. I recall the entire day as having a calm and assuring rhythm to it, were there was something to look forward to (except for the dreaded nap time). Singing together, playing games, doing puzzles, drawing, I recall it with great fondness.

    In retrospect, one thing about the two years i attended this facility is this: my sister and I would walk there together, alone, in the morning, and at the end of the day, we’d be sent on our way to walk home again, alone, and we lived approximately half a mile from the place.

    One day in particular stands out in my memory, and I’m pretty sure I have written about it here before. It was the morning of Fastelavn, which occurs right before Lent, so early in the year when it was usually still pretty cold out. It’s a day when Danish children don’t go to school, and instead get dressed up in costumes and masks, and go door to door to sing songs in return for treats and participate in other Fastelavn’s related activities, such of “slå katten af tønden,” beating the cat out of the barrel, a tradition akin to the Mexican piñata.

    Randi and I arrived at Asylet (the name of the facility, which means asylum), only to find it closed for the day. Not knowing what to do, we sat down on the front steps, and waited. After a while we were pretty chilled, and that when a gentleman drove by on his way to work. He stopped and asked what we were doing, and we told him of our dilemma. He herded us into his car, and drove to our mother’s place of employment and released us to her care.

    It’s really telling that despite the fact that this man, the owner of one of the largest stores in town, was not in our circle of acquaintances, he figured out who we were and apparently knew where mom worked.

    Here’s a that shows “Asylet” as it looked then, including the front stoop where Randi and I sat waiting to be rescued. It’s the building the man is sweeping in front of. Today it’s a facility that can be rented for celebrations of various kinds. https://www.google.com/search?q=asylet+in+Stubbek%C3%B8bing&client=f

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  11. OT: I’ve been absent for a very long time. I’ve been being prosecuted by the city I live in for 9 months for having a friend’s boat at my dock. Five hearings and headed for a jury trial. It’s against the law in Orono to have any boat at your dock which you don’t own. I have no boat, so if I lost this case, I’d have an empty dock. I pay $1000/month in property taxes, and, in a sense, have been paying for the city to prosecute me.

    This story has gone state-wide and roused the ire of literally thousands of people. The day after the Startribune featured this story nine months ago, one of the top MN attorneys called, offering pro bono representation. Between this and multiple newspapers publishing the story, the city looked worse and worse. Finally, about one month ago, Channel 5 taped a news spot. All hell broke loose for the city. The timing couldn’t have been better because a few days later, the pre-trial hearing was going to take place.

    The city, not being able to handle the enormous blowback any longer, agreed to drop the charges. It’s been a long, exhausting haul, but I’m finally in the clear and free to resume living my simple life without a cloud hanging over my head!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One more thing – it appears that I’ve been dropped from the email list notifications for TB. Please put me back on if possible so that I’ll know when new stories are posted!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. The dreaded nap time is coming out as a theme… I used to play lullabies on the piano while the kids rested their heads on their arms folded on the desks for maybe 10 minutes. Once in a while some little kid would fall asleep.

    I also remember milk time – in ’53 we got our milk still in little glass bottles, and I think everyone was able to have one… I remember having to ask my mom for the “milk money” to take to the teacher.

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  13. My first day in kindergarten became memorable when I kept putting my rug too close to Susie Stoever’s rug, even when she tried to avoid me. Susie protested. The teacher sentenced me by confining me in the cloak room where there wasn’t anyone I could annoy.

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  14. Rant time.

    This is a pertinent bookend to the first day of Kindergarten. This is what was expected of girls’ academic achievement from 1958-1971.

    I took the ACT in the Spring of my junior year in preparation for college. When I got the results, I did not have any context about what the scores meant. All I knew was how the final score was used in accessing colleges. I got a good score–a 29 composite which was good enough to get into anything I could afford.

    Then the guidance counselor called me into his officer and said, “Your English and Social Studies scores were about what we thought they should be (26 each). But how did you get these science and math scores? You should not be able to get scores like that.”

    I did not know what he meant, so I said, “I just took the test and answered the questions.”

    He insisted, “But you can’t get scores like this. You didn’t take that much math and science. Boys get those scores. Not girls.” He just looked at me. Glaring.

    I just sat there, too naive to understand at the time that he thought I cheated because a girl could not get the best math and science scores in her grade. At age 16 I did not know what to make of this, but I never forgot the conversation, trying to make sense of it. Finally, several years later I understood–he thought I was not that smart. He thought I cheated.

    How dare he.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh how I understand that anger, Jacque. Even after all of these years, it’s hard to ignore the damage done by such early injustice. Worse yet, it is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

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  15. WordPress has been playing these games with me; it asks for my password before it will post my comment. Then it doesn’t post it. Then if I try to post it again, it tells me Sorry! It looks like you’ve already said that. So then I have to preface my comment with some additional words. Hence this opening paragraph.

    I had Mrs. Anderson in kindergarten, Mrs. Nelson in first grade, Mrs. Painter in second grade, and Miss Anderson in 3rd grade.

    Mrs. Anderson was young, dark-haired, and newly married. When I think of her, I think of Jackie Kennedy, though Mrs. Anderson seemed a little more friendly and plump. She gushed over me because I could read.

    Mrs. Nelson was older, though probably not more than 40-ish. When you’re in first grade, though, forty seems kinda old. She was nice enough, but didn’t really seem engaged with me.

    Mrs. Painter made an impression because she invited me, along with some of the other girls in my class, to her house a couple of blocks from the school one afternoon. I think she served us lemonade. She had a nice back yard with flowers.

    Miss Anderson was what you’d probably call a spinster in 1960’s terms. She read the Little House books aloud in class and tried to explain the Vietnam war to us. She was a favorite teacher, and I remember sending her a birthday card when I was in 4th grade. Her first name was Clarice.

    After that we started having a homeroom teacher and a couple of other teachers each year. My 4th grade homeroom teacher was Mrs. Kelly, if memory serves. I had a male teacher that year also, but I’ve forgotten his name. It was the first time I’d had a male teacher. The men usually taught older kids, and usually taught math or science, in accordance with the gender biases of the day. The one thing I remember about him was that one day in class he abruptly stopped in front of my desk and asked “What color are your mother’s eyes?” I said “Green,” and he asked “What color are your father’s eyes?” and I said “Green.” And he said “Then where’d you get those big brown ones?”

    I suppose I was pretty lucky with teachers.

    Liked by 3 people

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